An organization of Hispanic organizations is asking President-elect Barack Obama to take steps to increase the number of minority owners among the ranks of broadcast and communications licensees. It is in fact pushing for action in four distinct areas – opening up digital side channels for minority owners, channel space on MVPDs, making diversity a major consideration when considering mergers and other communications transactions, and providing ubiquitous and free broadband access to all citizens. Interestingly, none of the organizations in the coalition is an Hispanic broadcast association or group.
The coalition is comprised of ASPIRA Association, Inc., Latinos in Science and Technology Association (LISTA), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, Inc. (IPR/HE), and National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA).
Here is their four-plank request:
1) Ensuring that the transition to digital television (DTV) creates new opportunities for minority ownership. Minority owned and controlled entities should be permitted to hold commercial and non-profit licenses for sufficient bandwidth to accommodate single streams of programming which are also required to be carried on multi-channel video services.
2) Creating a capacity set-aside on all multi-channel video platforms for minority owned and controlled non-profit entities that are not owned or controlled by a broadcast, satellite or cable interest.
3) Making ‘Diversity of Voices’ a key factor in all Communications. When considering mergers, spin-offs, license transfers and eligibility for public broadcasting funds, policymakers should move to policies which enhance diversity of voices from multiple sources in all media.
4) Embracing a national policy of affordable high speed internet. Lack of broadband availability exists in alarming frequency in America’s urban and rural communities.
RBR/TVBR observation: In the absence of room for full-power broadcast outlets in most major markets, ideas to use digital split-streaming as a way to increase diversity seem to be gathering currency. But MVPDs, including cable and DBS on the video side and Sirius XM on the audio-only side are not likely to play along quietly. The Sirius/XM merger does require a 4% channel capacity set-aside for niche programmers, which most watchdogs thought was entirely inadequate, and which is temporarily snagged at the FCC as rules of the road are being developed.